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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 July, 2003, 15:19 GMT 16:19 UK
Warning over listed building
Cairndhu house near Larne
Cairndhu house is lying derelict
The owner of a listed building in County Antrim has been told to repair it or it could be taken off him.

Millionaire property developer Diljit Rana has been served with an Urgent Works Notice forcing him to carry out repairs to Cairndhu House near Larne, which is currently derelict.

It is the first time such a notice - served by the government when a property needs almost immediate work done to help preserve it - has been sent to the owner of a listed building in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Environment has said if Mr Rana does not start the work within seven days, it will carry it out and send him the bill.

The DoE said the cause for concern included a damaged roof, leaking in a number of places and interior damage, including stained glass and historic woodwork.

We started securing this building two months ago it is not that we are going to do anything that the DoE or Environmental Heritage Services are forcing us to d
Dr Diljit Rana
Property developer

However, Dr Rana has said he is surprised to have been ordered to repair the building, as, he said, he had already done everything necessary.

"We selected a builder and he has been on site for the last six to eight weeks and he has been bricking up all the ground floor window openings and boarding up the first floor to stop intruders getting into the building," he said.

"We started securing this building two months ago, it is not that we are going to do anything that the DoE or Environmental Heritage Services are forcing us to do."

Mr Rana has a 28 day right of appeal.

Earlier this year, Mr Rana demolished another listed building, the Tilley and Henderson shirt factory in Londonderry, without permission.

Grant aid

Environment Minister Angela Smith said she had vowed to "be tough on those who did not protect our built heritage".

Speaking after the notice was served, she said: "Make no mistake, the DoE will be pursuing other similar cases over the coming months.

"Over the past few months my officials have been compiling a list of buildings which are considered to be significantly at risk.

"I would remind owners that it is their responsibility to care for their historic listed buildings."

She pointed out that grant aid was available for most listed buildings with an extra 1m funding secured for future years.

Cairndhu became a listed building on 23 October 1979.

Its history goes back to 1878 when Stewart Clarke of Paisley purchased a small house and grounds at Cairndhu and made many improvements including a large extension.

In 1918, Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon purchased the building and in 1947, the Dixon family donated the house and 162 acres of land to the Northern Ireland Hospitals Authority.

It was officially opened as a convalescent hospital in 1950 but funding difficulties meant that in 1986 it was closed down by the Department of Health and Social Services.

In 1995 Mr Rana purchased Cairndhu House and the surrounding gardens from the council.

BBC NI's environment correspondent Mike McKimm
"This is very significant because the DoE is changing its policy towards historical buildings"

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